Two Middle East refugees arrested on terrorism charges

Two Middle East refugees arrested on terrorism charges
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Two Iraqi-born Palestinians who came to the United States as refugees have been arrested on federal terrorism charges, the Justice Department announced late Thursday.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) cited the arrest of Faraj Saeed Al-Hardan in Houston as evidence of the wisdom of blocking Middle East refugee resettlement.

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“This is exactly what we have repeatedly told the Obama administration could happen and why we do not want refugees coming to Texas. There are serious questions about who these people really are, as evidenced by today's events," Patrick said in a statement.

Neither Al-Hardan nor Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, who was arrested in Sacramento, has been accused of plotting an attack on American soil, officials say. Both were charged with providing false information about their ties to international terrorist groups, and Al-Hardan was charged with providing material support to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Al-Jayab came to the U.S. as a refugee from Syria in 2012 and Al-Hardan from Iraq in 2009.

According to the federal charges, Al-Hardan offered up his services to ISIS to provide expert advice and assistance. He was associated with the extremist group throughout 2014, the government alleges, despite claims to the contrary on his formal citizenship application.

Al-Jayab, meanwhile, allegedly traveled to Syria in November 2013 after living for more than a year in the U.S. While there, officials say he claimed to have been fighting with various terrorist groups in the area.

He returned to the U.S. in early 2014 and settled in Sacramento.

Al-Jayab has been charged with lying to the government about his associations with extremist groups and about his travels to the Middle East.

A source familiar with the case said the men were not involved in a single plot but may have been in contact, according to Reuters.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Sacramento said “there is no current threat to public safety associated with this arrest.”

Both men will appear in federal court on Friday.

More than 75 U.S. residents have been arrested after alleged radicalization since 2014.

President Obama has pledged to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees this year as the humanitarian cost of the country’s civil war grows, spurring backlash over security concerns in Congress and statehouses across the U.S.

Julian Hattem contributed. Last updated at 9:12 a.m.